Newcastle Living Magazine
To Be Fed By Mockingbird
Nestled in Hamilton’s Beaumont Street, Mockingbird is a relaxed cafe offering incredible food with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The cafe has recently opened a second location in Lovedale.
Wife and husband duo Tess and James Borg were motivated to open the cafe as an evolution from their successful catering company Fennel and Co, combined with their background in hospitality.
“We always wanted something that reflected us and the space we have,” says Tess, “It’s somewhere that is welcoming to everyone and brings everyone together – people from all generations and backgrounds. We can cater to any dietary requirement – we really just want people to come in and feel welcome.”
Inspired by James’s favourite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, the café’s name draws from the Latin meaning many languages. “The mockingbird can make all different sounds and for us, food is our language. We thought it was quite fitting. We call it our little nest”.
The cafe’s home in Hamilton was a no-brainer for the duo. With their life and kids at school there, opening in the area simply made sense.
“The thing we love most about Mockingbird is being able to express ourselves in our food, creativity and service.”
“We had our catering kitchen down the other end of the road. It’s such a village-style community, it’s really close-knit. We did look at about five different places before we found this place. We have always been big believers in not rushing into anything until it feels 100% right. We wanted to make sure we had no doubts in our minds about the place.” James says.
As far as standout menu items, you can’t miss Mockingbird’s famous red velvet pancakes. They’ve been on the menu since day dot, and they have never taken them off. The menu changes frequently, and their ethos is that they only cook the food they enjoy.
“At the moment, we really love that middle eastern vibe, the south-east Asian vibe, we only really cook food that we actually like to cook. We currently have a Satay French Toast on the menu. Okonomiyaki is another standout dish. We like to have well-known dishes on the menu, but with a twist, everything is packed full of flavour. It’s also really appealing to the eye. James always says if it’s not insta-worthy, it’s not going out.” Tess laughs.
“The thing we love most about Mockingbird is being able to express ourselves in our food, creativity and service. We like to really show who we are and what we stand for. James still writes the menu and works really close with the head chef there and the front of house staff.”
The couple’s other business is a thriving catering company called Fennel and Co, which was established about six years ago, mostly catering around 200 weddings a year. This offside premium events business means that Tess and James don’t work in the cafe, rather, they head up Fennel and Co. Both the Mockingbird team and Fennel and Co team work together and go between businesses.
The most recent development for the business was the opening of their second location in Lovedale in late 2021. “This one will be a little bit different,” says Tess, “The breakfast will be very much the same as the original Mockingbird, but the lunch we are combining it with that we do at Fennel and Co – it’s more banquet style. This way, you get a taste of everything. We have such lovely grounds here, we have lawn games, all the kids can run and play outside. It is the perfect place for family brunches and boozy breakfast”.
Down the track, Tess and James are aspiring to create events to celebrate the local indigenous culture. James says the couple want to create a pure celebration of their culture through food.
“We want to start doing an annual event where we offer a meet and greet with indigenous locals as we are both indigenous. We want it to be a real celebration of culture and bring it into what we do food-wise as well”.